Religions of the world united at last?

No. Of course not. That’s a ridiculous concept. By their very nature they’re antagonistic towards each other. But you could be forgiven for thinking they had the capacity to unite by looking at this picture:

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The guy in the middle definitely wins for the silliest hat.

The people in this shot have been identified as (left to right) Sheik Abed es-Salem Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin patriarch; the Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Armenian patriarch; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi. The poor fella at the far right was not identified for some reason. Maybe he still needs to get a bit more bigoted or something.

So, why are they all together and looking so happy to be in such close proximity? Don’t forget, each of these people considers all the others to be idolators and infidels of some stripe or another. Well, they have found something to unite about, but it’s nothing for us to get even vaguely hopeful about. Apparently, international gay leaders planned a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August 2005, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City. I have to admit, I had no idea gay people were so organised. International leaders? Sounds vaguely ominous to me.

But at last, the three “great” religions of the region, Christianity, Judaism and Islam have found something to agree about. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable. Whereas, they seem to have no problem with systemic child abuse and dogmatic mind control.

“They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable,” Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, said of the festival. “It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it.” I’m quite impressed. Hurting all the religions at once has to be a worthy goal of any group. And if they have international leaders…

Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: “We can’t permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem.” Sure. Because before this festival was planned, there were no gay people there at all.

Apparently, this rare show of unity was initiated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego, cited as a veteran of the American culture war over homosexuality and a frequent visitor to Israel. A culture war?

Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem Open House, a gay and lesbian group that was the host for the festival, hit the nail on the head with this observation: “That is something new I’ve never witnessed before, such an attempt to globalise bigotry. It’s quite sad and ironic that these religious figures are coming together around such a negative message.”

But let’s give the last word to an American Rabbi, Yehuda Levin, of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He claims that the festival is “the spiritual rape of the Holy City.” To clarify his point, he claimed, “This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land.”

(I should point out that this story is two years old, as this was a festival that took place in 2005. But hey, so what? It’s a good story, and religious bigotry is eternal. Interestingly, the parade was marred by violence when an Ultra-Orthodox Jew invaded into the march and stabbed three participants. Way to go, religious tolerance.)

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